Friday, January 21, 2011

Conference Championships: A Preview

Had I submitted picks for last weekend’s divisional playoff games, I would have gotten all four games wrong. I don’t put much stock in my ability to predict the future and I don’t listen to other people’s predictions much either. However, I was quite pleased by all of the results. I am a Bear fan and they were able to set up a mega-match up with Green Bay. I wasn’t sorry to see the Patriots lose either, which was much like the Seahawks’ win in the Wild Card round. I definitely don’t mind being wrong if everyone else is as well. So, we have two big games this weekend: one I care very much about and the other which should be an interesting game that I can watch dispassionately. Let’s take a quick look at the fantasy implications of both games:

Jets at Steelers

I think there is a big chance that the Jets won their Super Bowl last week. They played a nearly flawless game to beat the Patriots. While I don’t believe in prediction abilities, I do believe in regressing to the mean. The Steelers are a better match up than the Patriots in that the Pittsburgh offensive line is not as good as the New England line. Speaking of offensive lines, I wrote about them all season long and none of the four teams have what I would consider a great line. I thought the Patriots and Falcons had the best lines. So much for that being a great factor! Since the Steelers just beat the Ravens and I think the Ravens and Jets are similar, it would make sense that I think the Steelers will beat the Jets. I am not expecting much production out of Rashard Mendenhall, who had 99 yards and a TD in 17 carries when the teams faced off on Dec. 19. That was the last time the Steelers lost and the only time since Nov. 14 that they were beaten. New York has a better secondary than Baltimore, and Mike Wallace may be eliminated as an option as he steps on Revis Island. Wallace had seven receptions and 102 yards. The Steelers’ defense may be able to take advantage of Marc Sanchez and he was just 19-for-29 for 170 yards in the win. Keep an eye on Emmanuel Sanders who had seven catches for 78 yards in the first meeting.

Packers at Bears

If I were still living in Wisconsin (as I was three years ago), I would be unable to rationally analyze this match up. I used to get physically ill when the Bears played the Packers because the game meant a bit too much to me. When the Bears won, it was great to have the quiet Packer fans around. If the Bears lost, I was the sullen one. My hate for the Packers has cooled over the last three years, which may or may not be a coincidence since a certain aged quarterback has moved on. It would seem that Aaron Rodgers would be a fine player to hate, but I just don’t have it in me anymore. My guess is that the AFC championship will be a relatively high scoring game and the NFC game will be low scoring. In the two regular season meetings, the teams combined for 50 points. While the Bear offense might not have been stoked to its utmost in Week 17, I would bet the under if I were a betting man. I don’t think the Packers will be able to run the ball like they did against Philadelphia in the Wild Card round, but I am not confident that the Bears will be able to contain Rodgers. In Week 17, he threw for 229 yards and the game’s only TD. If the Bears are to win, they will have to continue to have success running the ball to slow the Packer pressure. Matt Forte had a combined 151 yards (91 rushing, 60 receiving) in Week 17 and will be the key to the Bears. Of course, Jay Cutler will need to limit his mistakes. If you want a deep sleeper, take a look at Rashied Davis who had seven receptions for 63 yards in Week 17. He only had two receptions the rest of the season as he concentrated on special teams (an area where the Bears should have a significant advantage).

Enjoy the games!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Waiver Changes

Important Notice: The 'Per Round' Waiver period for NFL has been changed from 8 to 24 hours. The waiver period for 'Per Game' leagues remains the same (12 hours).

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bench Changes and Enhancements

Important Notice: The following changes have been implemented in an effort to improve our user experience with benches:

  • For leagues with benches and ‘Per Round’ waivers, a player’s status (either starter or bench) will remain locked throughout all of the weekend games. For example, if a league has 1 QB and 1 Bench slot, and a team manager decides to start Ben Roethlisberger in Game 1 on Saturday, Roethlisberger will be locked in the QB slot all weekend. He can no longer be swapped out for another QB that might be available on the Bench (i.e. Tom Brady). Team managers are strongly advised to set their starting lineups with their best available players prior to Game 1 on Saturday.

  • Individual changes can now be made when moving a player from a bench to a starter slot. It is no longer required to satisfy all of a league’s position requirements when attempting to make a swap.

  • For Head-to-Head leagues, the ‘Matchups’ page has been enhanced to exclude bench players.

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Divisional Match Ups: A Preview

Only one of the division winners won in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and if you had that team being the Seahawks, I take my hat off to you. The Seahawk victory was one of the most surprising since the Cardinals swept their way to the Super Bowl two years ago. There has been a lot of revisionist history in the past couple of days that pointed to a Seattle victory, but I’ll admit I was the most sure that New Orleans would win. We had some very exciting games, but they are done and it is time to look forward to the Divisional Round, which features its share of good games – all of which are rematches from the regular season. Let’s take a look at each one.

Packers at Falcons

In Week 12, Green Bay went down to Atlanta with a four-game winning streak that included dominating wins against the Cowboys and Vikings immediately preceding the Atlanta game. They had womped Dallas and Minnesota by a combined score of 76-10. In the Georgia Dome, they were only able manufacture 17 points despite 344 yards from Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was also the leading rusher for the Pack with 51 yards on 12 carries plus a TD. Clearly, the biggest difference in Green Bay is the development of James Starks. Maybe the Packer offensive line is finally coming together or maybe Starks is just a lot better than Brandon Jackson. Whatever the case, Green Bay is much more dangerous than they were on Nov. 28. On the other hand, after stymieing three offenses in a row (the Packers shut out the Jets prior to their two big wins), the Falcons were able to move the ball. Michael Turner had 110 yards on 23 carries and Matt Ryan successfully used a short passing game (24-for-28 for 197 yards). The Falcons were able to move the ball in the final minute to set up a Matt Bryant game-winner from 47 yards. It should be another close and interesting game, and people who selected Rodgers in drafts two weeks ago could be in for more big numbers.

Seahawks at Bears

The Seahawk victory over Chicago is ancient history compared to the Falcons’ win over their opponent, but I don’t think the teams have changed that much since Week 6. I thought the key to the Seahawk win against the Saints was their defensive line and its ability to get pressure on Drew Brees despite rushing just three linemen. The Seahawk defensive ends, Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock, were able to use speed rushes to loop around the Saint tackles and put pressure on Brees. This also left the interior of the Saint offensive line stuck blocking one guy. The Bear offensive line is not as good as the Saint line, so the rushing Seahawk ends could have some success in putting pressure on Jay Cutler. The Bear line has coalesced somewhat since Week 6, but Seattle sacked Cutler six times in the previous meeting. Apparently, the poor field in Chicago did not slow down the Seattle pass rush. That said, the Bear rushing game has improved since that game in which the Chicago was in heavy Mike Martz rotation. They only attempted 14 rushes and gained 61 yards. Chester Taylor led the Bears with 31 yards on four carries. Julius Peppers should be more of a factor in the playoff game. He had six sacks in the second half of the season after getting just two in the first half.

Ravens at Steelers

Pretty much every war-time metaphor has already been used to describe this game. The teams played two epic regular season games that featured defense, defense, some field goals, and more defense. I wouldn’t expect anything less from Round 3. Both Pittsburgh (8.5) and Baltimore (11.5) ranked in the top four in defending opposing running backs in terms of fantasy points. The Steelers were the best and Baltimore was fourth best (the Jets and Packers were the two other top teams). In the two games against Pittsburgh, Ray Rice had 17 carries for 52 yards. Rashard Mendenhall had a bit more success with 124 yards on 44 carries. Mendenhall scored both Pittsburgh TD’s in the first meeting of the two teams, but the Pittsburgh offensive line was more intact at that point. The Steeler offensive line will be key in this game, but they are on second string offensive tackles, Jonathan Scott and Flozell Adams. If the line can buy Ben Roethlisberger time, he may be able to find Mike Wallace for some yards. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco will need to improve on his 17-for-33 game in the Ravens’ win on Dec. 5. The Baltimore line has been decent but not great and they will have to hold the Steeler blitzers at bay.

Jets at Patriots

This is another intradivisional AFC in which the teams actually split the season series. It may seem like the Patriots haven’t lost this season, but that season was three years ago. The Jets were able to hang the first loss of the season on New England back in Week 2. In that game, Marc Sanchez threw three TD’s and one of Tom Brady’s two TD’s went to some guy named Randy Moss who is no longer on the team. How things changed in Week 13. With Moss safely tucked away in Tennessee, Brady threw four TD’s to four different receivers. BenJarvus Green-Ellis also had a successful game against the Jets with 72 yards and two TD’s inside the red zone. The Jets did a nice job bottling up the Colt offense last week, but Indianapolis does not feature the same type of balance as the Patriots. This game would seem to fall into the same category as the Seahawk-Saint game from last week. On paper, it doesn’t look like the Jets can win. Of course, we saw how that worked out in Seattle. To win, the Jets will need Sanchez to be more accurate, they’ll need their running game to provide some balance, and they’ll need to put some pressure on Brady. That’s a lot of needs and I’d be hard pressed to find a good reason that the Jets can win.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Wild Card Match Ups ... One Last Look

Before the weekend hits us, I figured I’d take one last look at the four match ups. While these games have been examined in depth in many other places, it is always worth another look. We’ll start in the AFC:

New York Jets (6) at Indianapolis Colts (3)

The Colts have scored in the thirties in four of their last five games and have won their last four (granted, two of those wins were against the dysfunctional Titans). In the four-game winning streak, Peyton Manning threw nine TD’s and two interceptions. So where did all of the other points come from? Javarris James had a rushing TD in the first win over the Titans. Adam Vinatieri had three field goals in each of the wins over Tennessee. Against Jacksonville, Donald Brown had one of his two TD’s on a 43-yard jaunt and Joseph Addai had a TD run against Oakland. Vinatieri had another three field goals in those two games. None of the Colt runners should have success against the Jets. Speaking of New York, they scored 72 points in Weeks 16 and 17. Marc Sanchez looked very good against Chicago in Week 16 and both Jet running backs, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene had rushing TD’s. Neither back played against the Bills, so they should be somewhat fresh and may have success against Colts who were 25th against the rush (by yards).

Baltimore Ravens (5) at Kansas City Chiefs (4)

Kansas City got hammered by the Raiders in Week 17 and that might be enough for you to believe that the Ravens will do the same thing at Arrowhead. However, the Raiders had the AFC West’s number this season and the Chiefs were 7-1 at home. So, the Chiefs had a puncher’s chance even if Charlie Weis has one foot in Florida. In the last three games of the season, Jamaal Charles rushed for more than 5.9 yards per carry and broke runs for 47 and 80 yards. Matt Cassel also had a rough week against the Raiders (11-for-33, two interceptions), but prior to that game he had only one interceptions in his previous six games (compared to 15 TD’s). The Ravens only had 27 sacks this season, which was tied with Buffalo and Cincinnati for 27th in the league. Terrell Suggs had 11 of those sacks. Like Indianapolis, Baltimore won its last four games of the season, but had diminishing returns on offense. The starters were playing in Week 17 against the Bengals and Joe Flacco only threw for 125 yards and one interception. In the winning streak, Flacco threw six TD’s and two picks. Ray Rice had a big game in Week 15 against the Saints, but that was his only game of the last five in which he averaged more than four yards per carry.

Green Bay Packers (6) at Philadelphia Eagles (3)

After averaging more than 30 points per game from Week 6 through 15, the Eagles crawled out of the season with quiet losses to the Vikings and Cowboys (who like the Ravens and Jets were similar in my mind this season – now they have one more similarity). Michael Vick did not play in Week 17, but he had 263 passing yards and 63 rushing yards against the Vikings. He will produce. The Packers rely on exotic blitzes, which helped the Vikings contain Vick. The Eagle offensive is not very good, so Philadelphia will not be able to grind out a win at home. Lesean McCoy only ran for 44 yards in 13 rushes against the Vikings, but like Vick had Week 17 off to rest. The Eagles will be the better rested team. The Packers, meanwhile, won a hard fought game over Chicago, who had nothing to play for. The Packer defense was very effective against the Bears, who feature a very different challenge from the Eagles. Of more concern to fantasy owners is that Chicago was able to bottle up the Packer passing game for the most part. The Eagles shouldn’t need to worry about the Packer running backs, but they may need to put some pressure on Rodgers.

New Orleans Saints (5) at Seattle Seahawks (4)

It seems like the home field advantage may be the only edge that the Seahawks can claim. Seattle was 5-3 at home, but none of their home wins came against playoff teams. In fact, they lost to the Giants, Chiefs, and Falcons by an average of 22.7 points. It looks like Matt Hasselback may be able to play despite his hip issues. At Qwest Field, he threw for six TD’s and eight interceptions, so he – unlike the bearded Charlie Whitehurst, at least by appearance – may not be the second coming. The Saints were actually better on the road (6-2) than in the Super Dome (5-3). They only scored 30 combined points in Weeks 16 and 17, but from Week 9 through 14 they scored at least 30 points per game. They also beat Seattle in New Orleans by 15 points in Week 11 as they came off the bye. Against his previous team, Julius Jones had four yards in four carries and he only averaged 3.7 yards per carry. And now Jones is the Saints’ lead back. It will be interesting to see how many carries Reggie Bush gets. He had 36 carries compared to 34 receptions in eight games this season. Bush only carried the ball more than ten times twice in 2009 and those two games were in the very early season (Weeks 2 and 3). He has never shown the ability to be an every-down back. Bush may get increased opportunities against Seattle, if the Seahawks can stay in the game.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Points Against Look at Wild Card Match Ups

One of the many excellent fantasy football resources on the web is ESPN’s Fantasy Football Points Against. This site helps the fantasy football owner look at how teams have done against various positions and I thought it would be worthwhile to examine how the teams in the Wild Card round stack up.

This may come as a shock to you, but the Seahawk defense has not been very good. While the Saints are not a sure thing to win in the Divisional playoffs, whether they play the Falcons (more likely) or Bears, they should fare well individually against the Seahawks and get your team some early points. Of the 12 playoff teams, Seattle allowed the most points to quarterbacks (17.7 points by standard ESPN scoring), running backs (20.3), and wide receivers (25.1). It’s not as if the New Orleans offense needs help, but with their running backs falling quickly (Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas are out for the playoffs), Julius Jones may be a decent pick up at least for the first round. The Saint defense, meanwhile, was the stingiest of the 12 defenses against opponent quarterbacks (10.7) and wide receivers (12.0). If you got stuck with Charlie Whitehurst/Matt Hasselback, please accept my condolences.

The other NFC match up does not feature many clear trends as far as points against. The Packers are the second best playoff team against wide receivers (16.7), but allow the second most to opponent tight ends (7.8). The Eagles are the team that allows the most opponent points to tight ends (8.9), but are middle of the pack against the other positions. I guess that makes Andrew Quarless a moderate sleeper.

Heading over to the AFC, the Colts allow the second most points to opponent running backs (18.1), which should be music to the ears of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene owners. The Jets are the stingiest team against opponent running backs (10.9), but are the third most easy against opponent receivers (21.1). Maybe Revis Island has been lost? It comes as no surprise that the Ravens are the second toughest against the run (11.5) and are similarly sieve-like against wide receivers (21.4). If the Ravens and Jets switched teams, would anyone know? The Ravens allow the fewest points to opponent tight ends (4.9) and the Chiefs are also stingy against the only offensive linemen that count in fantasy football (5.1). Neither Tony Moeaki nor Todd Heap is a good play based on points against.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Use PickemFirst with Fantasy Postseason

The Pickemfirst fantasy assistant has been integrated with Fantasy Postseason. Use this tool to help you manage your NFL Playoff fantasy teams.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Top 50 for NFL Fantasy Postseason

Trying to combine positional rankings can be problematic, but I am willing to give it a shot. Here is my best guess at the top 50 players for the playoffs. (I have already changed my top ten from yesterday):

1. Tom Brady

2. Michael Turner

3. Michael Vick

4. Drew Brees

5. Peyton Manning

6. Jamaal Charles

7. Ray Rice

8. Matt Ryan

9. Ben Roethlisberger

10. Roddy White

11. BenJarvus Green-Ellis

12. Aaron Rodgers

13. Marques Colston

14. Wes Welker

15. DeSean Jackson

16. Dwayne Bowe

17. Matt Forte

18. Rashard Mendenhall

19. Reggie Wayne

20. Lesean McCoy

21. Anquan Boldin

22. Tony Gonzalez

23. Greg Jennings

24. Jay Cutler

25. Mike Wallace

26. Deion Branch

27. Matt Cassel

28. Jacob Tamme

29. Marc Sanchez

30. Braylon Edwards

31. Johnny Knox

32. Pierre Garcon

33. Reggie Bush

34. Ladainian Tomlinson

35. Joseph Addai

36. Shonn Greene

37. Derrick Mason

38. Santonio Holmes

39. Lance Moore

40. Hines Ward

41. Jeremy Maclin

42. Thomas Jones

43. Willis McGahee

44. Pierre Thomas

45. Joe Flacco

46. Heath Miller

47. Aaron Hernandez

48. Todd Heap

49. Donald Driver

50. Robert Meachem

Tight End Rankings for Fantasy Postseason

Like receivers, tight ends are relatively deep. The top seeded teams, the Patriots and Falcons, make extensive use of their tight ends, especially in the red zone. If it is within your league's rules, you could even use two tight ends in place of a lower ranked running back or receiver.

1. Tony Gonzalez

2. Jacob Tamme

3. Heath Miller

4. Aaron Hernandez

5. Todd Heap

6. Tony Moeaki

7. Greg Olson

8. Rob Gronkowski

9. Dustin Keller

10. Brent Celek

11. Andrew Quarless

12. Jeremy Shockey

13. Jimmy Graham

14. John Carlson

Wide Receiver Rankings for Fantasy Postseason

The wide receivers are relatively deep this postseason. Teams like the Jets and Ravens have a lot of name receivers, but it remains a question of whether their quarterbacks can get them the ball. I think you can wait to address receiver until you have your quarterback and running backs slots adequately filled. Here's a list of 25 receivers to consider:

1. Roddy White
2. Marques Colston
3. Wes Welker
4. DeSean Jackson
5. Dwayne Bowe
6. Reggie Wayne
7. Anquan Boldin
8. Greg Jennings
9. Mike Wallace
10. Deion Branch
11. Braylon Edwards
12. Johnny Knox
13. Pierre Garcon
14. Derrick Mason
15. Santonio Holmes
16. Lance Moore
17. Hines Ward
18. Jeremy Maclin
19. Donald Driver
20. Robert Meachem
21. Michael Jenkins
22. Mike Williams
23. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
24. Rashied Davis
25. Jordy Nelson

Running Back Rankings for Fantasy Postseason

This year's class of running backs is not very deep. I feel confident about the top four and could see three more being top producers. After that, everyone has a puncher's chance to do some damage.

1. Michael Turner
2. Jamaal Charles
3. Ray Rice
4. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
5. Matt Forte
6. Rashard Mendenhall
7. Lesean McCoy
8. Reggie Bush
9. Ladainian Tomlinson
10. Joseph Addai
11. Shonn Greene
12. Thomas Jones
13. Willis McGahee
14. Pierre Thomas
15. Donald Brown
16. Christopher Ivory
17. James Starks
18. Brandon Jackson
19. Marshawn Lynch
20. Chester Taylor

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Quarterback Rankings for Fantasy Postseason

A quick list of the top quarterbacks in the upcoming playoffs. The other positional rankings as well as a top 50 will come tomorrow.

1. Tom Brady
2. Michael Vick
3. Drew Brees
4. Peyton Manning
5. Matt Ryan
6. Ben Roethlisberger
7. Aaron Rodgers
8. Jay Cutler
9. Matt Cassel
10. Marc Sanchez
11. Joe Flacco
12. Matt Hasselback/Charlie Whitehurst

Setup Tip: NFL Playoff Fantasy Football Player Pool Size

Compared to regular season fantasy football, the NFL playoff fantasy player pool is dramatically reduced. As a general rule, the player pool is about one-third the size of a regular season player pool.

You need to be cognizant of this fact as you set up your NFL playoff fantasy leagues.

Given this, if you want a highly active league with free agency throughout the playoffs and you have a large league (8-12 managers) we would recommend that you allow players to be drafted either 2 or 3 times.

We have a player pool configuration tool that will give you a better sense of how many players will be available throughout the various rounds of the playoffs.

Draft System Requirements: Adobe Flash

For an enhanced drafting user experience our site uses Adobe Flash technology.

In order to participate in either off-line or live drafts you need to install a recent version of the Adobe flash plugin and make sure that you are using a recent browser version.

Adobe has provided the following page to test your Adobe flash version:

If you have the Adobe Flash plugin you should see a success image. You should be running a revision at least greater than 10.

NFL Fantasy Postseason: Sunday Morning Top Ten

With plenty left to be resolved on this last Sunday of the regular season, it is hard to pinpoint how postseason draft rankings should fall. Nevertheless, if the current match ups fall in line, here is my best guess at a top ten for the playoffs (with comments).

1. Tom Brady
This one won't change no matter who the Patriots line up against. He should be the top pick in all drafts.

2. Michael Turner
Assuming the Falcons get the top seed in the NFC, Turner should be the best bet in the conference to lead his team to the Super Bowl. His home/road splits are fairly even (4.3 and five TD's yards per carry at home, 4.0 and six on the road). As noted in my earlier blog post, running back is fairly thin in the playoffs, so Turner gets some points for position scarcity.

3. Michael Vick
Vick will get this week off to rest his sore quad. The Eagles will get at least one home game, but Vick has actually been more productive away from Veterans Stadium (including his enormous game against the Redskins on Monday Night Football in November). Vick had some playoff success with the Falcons (including a nice win in Green Bay).

4. Drew Brees
Should the Saints get the top seed in the NFC, I'd flipflop Brees and Turner. They have to beat Tampa, while Atlanta would have to lose to Carolina. It is John Fox's last game as the Panthers' coach, but there are many reasons that the team is 2-13. Therefore, Brees should be number four. He could easily be the top scorer in the playoffs, and I think he ends the top tier of options.

5. Peyton Manning
Like Vick, Manning has been more effective on the road. He has 20 TD's away from Indianapolis and just nine at home. After getting picked off 11 times in Weeks 11-13, Manning has only thrown two interceptions in the last three weeks and has seven TD's in that span. In three playoff games last year, Manning threw for 956 yards and six TD's.

6. Jamaal Charles
Charles has been used somewhat sparingly over the last three weeks and only has a combined 34 carries over that span. He only has four TD's this season, but he is averaging 6.4 yards per carry (compared to Thomas Jones, who is averaging 3.7 yards per carry). With 43 receptions, he is also a target outside of the backfield (unlike Turner who has 12 catches).

7. Ray Rice
One might think that Rice should be higher on this list because he is the best back on what should be a running team. However, when I watched the Ravens this season (and even when I watched their tape and talked to their coordinators... that's a joke), they did not have much success on the ground and Rice only had four TD's and 4.0 yards per carry. Rice has been given 56 carries in the last two weeks, so maybe the Raven offensive line is feeling good enough to blow open big holes for the former Rutgers back.

8. Ben Roethlisberger
Speaking of leaky offensive lines, the Steelers' line has been decimated by injury. Their left tackle, Jonathan Scott, has been pulled the last two weeks for Trai Essex, who was supposed to start the season at right tackle, but was replaced by Flozell Adams. Over the last five weeks, Big Ben has topped 246 yards each week, but only thrown three TD's. He still has a playoff pedigree and shouldn't be overlooked completely.

9. Roddy White
White has had another great season and has set a personal best with 109 catches with one game left to go. The former UAB receiver is so far and away the number one option in the passing game that he should be the top receiver off the board. Tony Gonzalez has a respectable 64 grabs, but Michael Jenkins is third on the team with 36 receptions. Because he will get the ball, he deserves to be a first round pick.

10. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
While I am tempted to put Jay Cutler here, even as a Bear fan I worry about him. I might as well go with the surprising Green-Ellis who has found the endzone 12 times this season. I don't think he is all that great, but his success this year is a testament to the excellent Patriot offensive line. The poetically named running back has averaged 4.4 yards per carry and has scored a TD in nine of his last 12 games.